PARIS — Plans by a significant sporting items firm in France to promote a hijab designed for runners have incited one more debate over what Muslim girls put on, exposing as soon as once more the tensions between secularism and faith within the nation.

France’s longstanding attitudes towards feminism, secularism and the mixing of immigrants are on the root of the numerous controversies, however they’re additionally fueled by current fears about Islamist terrorism, together with the rise of social media.

The newest debate facilities on plans by Decathlon, Europe’s largest sporting items retailer, to promote the hijab, which covers the wearer’s head and neck. Criticism shortly got here from many quarters, with one lawmaker saying that the talk laid naked “this obsession across the veil and Islam.”

Decathlon had began promoting the sports activities hijab in Morocco final week and deliberate to take action in France. The transfer was shortly criticized on social media, and a number of other politicians expressed discomfort in regards to the product being offered in France.

Some even steered a boycott.

“My alternative as a lady and a citizen can be to not belief a model that breaks with our values,” said Aurore Bergé, a spokeswoman for Republic on the Transfer, President Emmanuel Macron’s celebration. “Those that tolerate girls within the public area solely when they’re hiding are usually not lovers of freedom.”

Decathlon initially stood agency, arguing that it was targeted on “democratizing” sports activities and that Muslim girls typically ran with “ill-adapted” hijabs.

“Our objective is easy: to supply them an appropriate sports activities product, with out judging,” the company said in an announcement on Twitter.

It’s unclear why Decathlon turned the main target of such criticism. Nike already sells hijabs for runners in France, nevertheless it has not confronted the identical scrutiny, presumably as a result of it’s not a French model.

Some politicians defended Decathlon, with Aurélien Taché, a consultant from Mr. Macron’s celebration, saying that France “would do nicely” with out “this obsession across the veil and Islam.”

However Decathlon backtracked and on Tuesday, halting its plans to promote the sports activities hijab in France after — it mentioned — salespeople have been threatened in shops, some bodily, and after it obtained lots of of calls and emails.

One message accused the corporate of “betraying” France and “contributing to the Islamist invasion,” the corporate mentioned.

Since 2011, it has been unlawful to put on a face-covering veil in public in France, however the hijab doesn’t fall into that class.

Nonetheless, lately, Muslim girls carrying the hijab and different clothes have prompted friction — regionally and on a nationwide scale.

Final 12 months, Maryam Pougetoux, a scholar union chief drew public ire after showing on tv carrying a head scarf.

In the summertime of 2016, a nationwide debate erupted over the “burkini,” the full-body bathing swimsuit designed for working towards Muslim girls; the merchandise was briefly banned in some coastal cities in southern France.

In some circumstances, different items of clothes have develop into the goal of critics. In 2015, a French faculty despatched a 15-year-old scholar residence, saying that her lengthy skirt was an “ostentatious signal” of her Muslim religion.

Since 2004, it has been unlawful for college kids to put on any seen indicators of spiritual affiliation.

Laïcité, the idea of state secularism, is a defining precept of the French republic, nevertheless it has typically been a degree of friction between Muslims and the state.

“France is a really secular society, which could be very virulent towards any sort of spiritual expression, even these which might be authorized or don’t threaten public order,” mentioned Nicolas Cadène, a senior member of the Observatory of Secularism, an company that assists the federal government in imposing laïcité.

The European Union’s highest courtroom dominated in 2017 that employer bans on hijabs within the non-public sector could possibly be authorized.

However the debate in regards to the veil is not about its legality, however relatively its symbolism.

On the precise and much proper, it’s typically seen as a rebuke of France’s secular values and an indication of an absence of integration. Throughout the political spectrum, the veil is commonly seen as an intrinsic image of submission that goes towards gender equality, even when worn freely.

Some feminists say that carrying it sends the incorrect sign to girls elsewhere on this planet who’re combating to reside with out it.

Marlène Schiappa, the junior minister for gender equality, wrote in The HuffPost on Wednesday that girls ought to be allowed to put on the hijab, however that it was essential to “query that alternative.”

However others feminists and politicians on the left, in addition to Muslim advocacy teams, argue that it’s hypocritical to say hijab-wearing girls are withdrawing from French society whereas criticizing clothes just like the burkini or sports activities hijabs designed to assist them really feel comfy in public life.

Sylvie Eberena, 38, a Muslim entrepreneur and coach who runs a health web site, mentioned she discovered the discussions over apparel “exhausting.”

“It’s not about politics or faith,” she mentioned. “Each human being desires to really feel good inside their very own our bodies, so if a bit of clothes might help with that, why not?”

Since she started showing in health movies carrying her hijab practically a decade in the past, Ms. Eberena mentioned, she has seen many extra veiled girls working towards sports activities.

Laura Cha, a spokeswoman for the Muslim feminist group Lallab, added that “for individuals who are usually not straight impacted by the hijab, it’s only one extra controversy, however for Muslim girls, it has some nefarious, long-lasting penalties.”

“It’s a disgrace that Decathlon didn’t stand agency,” Laetitia Gahoudi, 37, a Muslim entrepreneur and private coach, mentioned on Wednesday.

“However we didn’t anticipate Decathlon to promote a runner’s hijab to work out with our head scarves. And we’ll maintain understanding with out them.”


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